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As anti-police brutality protests have broken out across the country after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, more than 9,000 people have been arrested in connection to these demonstrations—a number that keeps growing every day. While the gatherings have been overwhelmingly peaceful, others have turned chaotic as police made arrests and deployed so-called “non-lethal” tactics like tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets.
Almost immediately after people started taking to the streets, donations started rolling into bail funds like Minnesota Freedom Fund, the Peoples City Council Freedom Fund, and the Louisville Community Bail Fund, which serve to post bail for arrested protesters in their areas. Celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and John Legend, Harry Styles, Seth Rogen, Gabrielle Union, Lizzo, and dozens of others matched donations to ensure those arrested are able to get home.
But if you’re going to join the protests, it’s worth having a plan in case you need a lawyer’s help. Attorneys can protect your rights or file a civil claim if you believe your rights were violated. If you’re under arrest, you have the right to ask why and you have the right to call a lawyer without the police listening.
For a quick primer on your rights as a protestor, here’s what the ACLU says:
- You have the right to express your opinions in public.
- You have the right to protest in “traditional public forums,” such as streets, sidewalks and parks, so long as you are not interfering with traffic or building usage. Marches that block traffic require a permit.
- “Dispersal” should be law enforcement’s last resort, and officers may not use such tactics unless there’s a “clear and present danger” or threat to public safety, such as riots and looting.
- If you are lawfully in a public forum, you have the right to photograph police, and they may not confiscate or demand to view your images or videos.
- Police may not arrest you without “reasonable suspicion” that you are about to commit a crime (or are already committing one).
- Stay calm if you are arrested. You have the right to remain silent, and do so if your lawyer is not present. Ask to call your lawyer immediately.
- You have the right to medical attention should you be injured.
- As soon as you can, write down everything you remember about the arrest, including badge and patrol car numbers if you have them.
Considering most of us don’t have a personal lawyer, it’s best to ensure you have easy access to legal services before you even attend a protest. Over the past week, supporters have compiled lists of attorneys offering free legal support across the country. You can contact them directly to confirm their availability. Consider writing their number on your arm before you head out to protest if you might be arrested.
Where To Find Pro Bono Lawyers
- A spreadsheet here lists more than 150 attorneys offering pro bono work throughout the U.S. along with other resistance resources.
- This massive Twitter thread lists attorneys around the country ready to help.
- Another Twitter user compiled a Google Sheet with more than 100 lawyers offering pro bono services in cities like Phoenix, Los Angeles, Denver, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Pittsburgh, and New York City. The list is being updated continually.
- Derouen Law Firm compiled a similar list on its website with more than 80 attorneys, many of whom are in Texas, but with a few in Illinois, Georgia, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Florida, and North Carolina as well.
- A Texas-specific pro bono lawyer list can be found here.
- This document lists, by city, Twitter accounts of lawyers who have said they’re willing to represent protestors.
- This #BlackLivesMatter resource list contains several chapters of helpful tools, including links to bail funds.
- A Twitter user compiled this list of lawyers helping with protest-related arrests.
- You can search the American Bar Association’s pro bono resource directory here.
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Most lawyers have been announcing their willingness to help via Twitter, so if you’re struggling to find representation in your area, try searching “pro bono + [YOUR STATE/CITY]” to find resources.
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